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Great Children’s Poets

A Good Place to Start

When we think of great poets we may be transported back in time to another century when poetry was a more common place form of literature that people were familiar with and accustomed to listening to and reading. As a means of passing on traditions and history, poetry has always had a place in almost every culture and thus it is from an early age that children may be exposed to the delights of rhythm and rhyme, to tempo and vocabulary and to an array of human emotions. Many today may say that the popularity of poetry is dwindling, given that we live in an ever more digital age, but in fact the advent of online communication has made the joys of poetry available to an even wider audience. The love of the written word can be fostered in the very young with the writing of well-chosen words that speak to the specifics of children of any given age. Appeal to the emotions and humor of our youngsters and you develop the growth of a new generation of readers, listeners, writers and participants who will relish the art of literature.

The Poets

It takes a certain talent and perspective to compose really good, meaningful poetry for children. This doesn’t mean it has to be somehow complex just relatable and therein lies the trick! One of the things that seems to be consistent with great children’s poets is that they are talented on many levels and are able to be reach their audience without pretentiousness or judgement, in other words they just seem to get it! Whether it is humor or deep emotion, they connect to that age group in a way others do not. Roald Dahl was the master of the weird and wonderful in both his stories and children’s poems. He was masterful at writing adult fiction and was not afraid to use this element to tap into children’s natural fascination with the darker side of things as well as just plain silly! Similarly, Robert Louis Stevenson wrote some dark and compelling adult fiction such as The Strange Case Of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde, but could channel this keen sense of the darker side of life to punctuate the themes of his children’s poems. Perhaps both these authors were more accepting of the inquisitive and sometimes darker side of human nature, even in a child. As a modern-day example of the poet who gets it Shel Silverstein has to be mentioned. Tragically his death at age 67 robbed the world of a great character who was responsible for reinvigorating the world of children’s poetry in no small way. Creative in many ways, including as a cartoonist, Shel wrote what children loved to read and hear, modern day fables that were accessible and stood the test of time, as demonstrated by his work A Light In The Attic that remained on the New York Times chart for two years. Other poets that deserve a shout out are Naomi Shihab Nye who like Silverstein has many artistic talents and writes especially for a young female audience, also Francisco X. Alarcón who saw a need for bilingual poetry for children. With these and many more great poets for children we can be sure that the art will be carried forward to the next generation.

The Poets